Tuesday, October 9, 2018

"Rough Cuts" at Nautilus Music-Theater: "Heartless" and "Heroine"

Nautilus Music-Theater, which focuses on new or reimagined works of music-theater (a term I love because it covers the wide range from "play with music" to "opera," without having to put a label on it), kicks off their 25th season of their "Rough Cuts" series this week. Typically held on the second Monday and Tuesday of the month, "Rough Cuts" presents readings of new works in various stages of development. This allows the creators to see their work in front of an audience, an important part of the theater development process. For a suggested donation of $5, you can be part of the process, and enjoy free milk and cookies! I always want to go to "Rough Cuts," but am usually too busy, so I took advantage of a quieter week to visit the Lowertown St. Paul studio (next door to Black Dog Cafe, for those who want something stronger with their cookies). They perform again tonight - this and any other "Rough Cuts" is highly recommended for those interested in the development of new works of music-theater.

This month's "Rough Cuts" features two works. One is an excerpt of Impossible Salt's Fringe Show Heartless, which is being remounted at Nautilus next week, just in time for Halloween. The other is a work in progress by Benjamin Emory Larson about Heroines throughout history.

I've never seen any of Impossible Salt's work; they've just been around since 2014, and have done a few Fringe shows as well as work with the American Swedish Institute. After the selection the creators talked about their work, which is primarily devised works of music-theater. There are several #TCTheater companies that do devised work (meaning created by the ensemble in the rehearsal room based on an idea or story, rather than a pre-written script), but I don't know of any that do devised musicals. How cool! Heartless is one such work based around a story told in many cultures, of a troll/giant/wizard/creature with no heart. Ensemble members Boo Segersin, Parker Genné (co-founder of the company), and Sean Hansberry present four scenes from the piece, with music composed and performed on piano by Joseph Yé. The short excerpt is haunting, creepy, poignant, exciting, and definitely makes me want to see more of their work. (Click here for more info about Impossible Salt and details on the upcoming production.)

Composer/Lyricist Benjamin Emory Larson admitted that this piece is still unformed; he has ideas of where he wants it to go but isn't there yet. But it's a fantastic ideas and the pieces presented are very promising. We hear from five women who changed the world (the final piece will likely include more): mathematician Ada Lovelace, poet Emily Dickinson, abolitionist Sojourner Truth, founder of modern nursing Florence Nightingale, and Greek philosopher/astronomer/mathematician Hypatia (voiced by the incredibly talented Elena Glass, Sara Ochs, Falicia Cunningham, Vanessa Gamble, and Jen Burleigh-Benz, respectively). The women talk to each other in a playful way as each tells her story, or one part of her story. The songs range in musical style and really seem to fit the personality of each woman, a highlight being Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I A Woman?" sung by Falicia Cunningham (watch out for that one). Perhaps now more than ever, we need to remember the women that history has largely forgotten, and this piece does that in a beautiful way. I look forward to seeing more of it.

You can see these two pieces tonight at Nautilus' studio space at 7:30. Visit their Facebook page for more information and to make reservations, or just show up and support new music-theater!